1. Catch globally renowned authors at Toronto’s annual literary festivals. Word on the Street Toronto Book & Magazine Festival celebrates literacy and reading with year-round events and a free festival and marketplace each September.
Right on its heels each October is the contemporary-literature-focused Toronto International Festival of Authors (TIFA). TIFA Kids takes place concurrently, making for a literary escape for the whole family.
2. Sip a Fahrenheit 451 at the Scrabble-tile bedecked counter at Famous Last Words, a bookish bar in the Junction neighbourhood. With a cocktail menu inspired by literary classics, this cozy retreat is a fave of local book clubs.
3. Or take in a reading at Glad Day Bookshop, a bookshop/café/bar in Church-Wellesley Village. The world’s oldest LGBTQ-focused bookstore carries literature for all ages, including kids and young adults.
4. Get lost in the stacks at the Toronto Reference Library. The Toronto Public Library (TPL) is the busiest urban public library system in the world and its heart is the Toronto Reference Library, located right near the intersection of Bloor and Yonge Streets.
Built in 1977, this architectural marvel was inspired by the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. For an immersive experience, visit the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection on the 5th floor where you can browse works in a replica of Sherlock Holmes’s study.
5. Look for literary hotspots around the University of Toronto. UofT is alma mater to some of Canada’s most celebrated literary figures including Margaret Atwood, Rohinton Mistry and Michael Ondaatje.
Trinity College’s clandestine courtyard and the adjacent Philosopher’s Walk (behind the ROM) are idyllic settings to read in the summer or warmer fall months. Many of the colleges have book sales in September and October, featuring hard-to-find and out of print titles. Snap a photo of the iconic Robarts Library, known for its distinctive fowl-shaped exterior.
6. Expand your literary horizons at Flying Books, a triple-threat bookstore, book publisher and writing school founded by book editor Martha Sharpe. You can find Sharpe’s curated selection of titles at The Good Neighbour Espresso Bar (Bloor Street West and Dovercourt Avenue locations) and the Gladstone House. Extend your lit experience from home with Flying Books’ virtual classes on criticism, journalism, memoir and more, taught by experienced Canadian authors.
7. Bookshop hop at indie booksellers across the city. Ben McNally Books (possibly the city’s most beautiful bookstore) is a bibliophile’s oasis just east of the Financial District. The owner is regularly on-site to assist you with recommendations. Type Books across from verdant Trinity Bellwoods Park (the perfect spot to read under the trees), is co-owned by a former literature professor and best for general interest and gifts. Queen Books in Leslieville has an excellent kids’ section and nearby cafés where you can dive into your new read en famille.
8. Find rare books, unique finds and budget-bin steals while exploring Toronto’s used bookstore scene. West end’s Monkey’s Paw specializes in quirky antiquarian books: drop a toonie into their Biblio-Mat dispenser and see what book fate assigns you.
The University of Toronto-adjacent Annex neighbourhood hosts BMV Books and its well-rounded selection for all interests, including bargain-priced newer releases. Or stop by A Good Read, where you can pick up a Penguin Classic and shop Roncey village for other souvenirs.
9. Sneak away to a local library. While temporarily closed at press time, the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Great Library at Osgoode Hall is one of the most beautiful sanctuaries in Toronto to just sit and focus. It has a no-photo policy, but #bookselfie-friendly TPL branches include stunning Bloor Gladstone (winner of multiple architectural design awards) and Lillian H. Smith (which is guarded by a pair of griffins at its front entrance).
10. Treat yourself to a pile of new graphic novels, comics and manga. The Beguiling boasts Canada’s widest selection of alternative, underground and avant-garde graphic books on hip College Street, while Queen Street West’s Silver Snail rounds out its comic book collections with collectibles and games. Based out of the ground floor of the Toronto Reference Library, Page & Panel is the official shop of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.
Check online for updated store hours and event availability, which may be impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.